Is James Hardenís greatness overrated?
James Harden has struggled to shine alone on the court after he was shipped to the Houston Rockets in a surprising late 2012 trade by the Oklahoma City Thunders. The NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year might have led the Houston Rockets to a 3-3 record but he still has to improve on his scoring ability and contribution as a heavy-weight facilitator on the offense.
The 23-year-old posted 37 points in his regular season debut for the Houston Rockets, in a 105-96 win over the Detroit Pistons. In the Houston Rockets’ second-straight win of the season, James Harden had 45 points against the Atlanta Hawks which bought him up to a 41 points per game average. However, there was no foreseeable way that James Harden could keep improving on that scoring average, although many maintained hopes with him of a high scoring rate after shooting 49.1 percent from the field just a season ago.
Since the first-two games of the season, James Harden has made 32.4 percent shots from the floor, which averages at 17.8 points per game. Becoming the Houston Rockets’ immediate star attraction, naturally a lot more was expected of James Harden in the next four games, which partly resulted in the team’s three game loss in the past two weeks.
But without Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to increase the pressure on opponents’ defenses, James Harden has struggled to drive the offense. We caught a glimpse of similar short comings in James Harden’s performance during the 2012 NBA finals.
More importantly, during the first two games, James Harden was up-against defenders of the likes of Devin Harris, Rodney Stuckey and Kyle Korver. The difficulty level on scoring greatly increased as James Harden faced elite defenders in his later games.
James Harden was offensively limited by Wesley Matthews against the Portland Trail Blazers and shot 8-of-24 from the floor while committing five turnovers. Similarly, against Denver Nuggets’ Andre Iguaodala, James Harden could manage only 5-of-15 shots from the floor while producing six turnovers.
And two nights, with Tony Allen on the other side of the court, James Harden made just 4-of-18 shot with five turnovers in the game.
In the Houston Rockets’ three losses, James Harden shot a collective 17-of-57 from the floor while coughing up 16 turnovers.
The purpose here isn’t to criticize James Harden, but to remind that it may take him time to adjust into his new spotlight role. The only way James Harden could survive unscathed by then is if there is a slump in production by Jeremy Lin or he goes hot again like the New York Knicks’ ‘Linsainty’ period.
But constructively speaking, James Harden needs to ease into the defensive pressure sent his way and learn to improvise on his teammates’ capabilities and preferences. Then maybe James Harden could return to his MVP candidacy.